Ethylene responsive factors (ERFs) are a large family of plant-specific transcription factors that are involved in the regulation of plant development and stress responses. However, little to nothing is known about their role in herbivore-induced defense. We discovered a nucleus-localized ERF gene in rice (Oryza sativa), OsERF3, that was rapidly up-regulated in response to feeding by the rice striped stem borer (SSB) Chilo suppressalis. Antisense and over-expression of OsERF3 revealed that it positively affects transcript levels of two mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and two WRKY genes as well as concentrations of jasmonate (JA), salicylate (SA) and the activity of trypsin protease inhibitors (TrypPIs). OsERF3 was also found to mediate the resistance of rice to SSB. On the other hand, OsERF3 was slightly suppressed by the rice brown planthopper (BPH) Nilaparvata lugens (Stål) and increased susceptibility to this piercing sucking insect, possibly by suppressing H2O2 biosynthesis. We propose that OsERF3 affects early components of herbivore-induced defense responses by suppressing MAPK repressors and modulating JA, SA, ethylene and H2O2 pathways as well as plant resistance. Our results also illustrate that OsERF3 acts as a central switch that gears the plant’s metabolism towards an appropriate response to chewing or piercing/sucking insects.